Jesus was born amidst a good deal of struggle to believe. There was doubt and disbelief surrounding His birth, even as there is today when He is born anew in someone.
It takes two different accounts to piece the story together (Luke 1:26-38; Matthew 1:18-24), and factoring in the human element, it’s hard to imagine it was all sweetness and light. There were two angelic visitations, one to Mary (called the Annunciation by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches) and one to Joseph, and it’s pretty clear that Mary got hers first, because Joseph was contemplating divorcing her over the disgrace of her pregnancy. It’s hard to imagine Mary not telling Joseph about her visit with the angel, and assuming she told him, it’s equally hard to imagine Joseph believing her.
I mean there aren’t too many options for a father here. There’s Joseph, someone else, or God. If you were Joseph, which one would you believe? I would call God the long shot at best. And even if Joseph could believe Mary, I doubt anyone else would. So you have a good deal of tension that was relieved, at least for the two of them, in Joseph’s eventual visitation confirming Mary’s story. That did nothing to quell the public pressure, but you can endure anything if you are convinced of the truth yourself.
There are at least three lessons I can think of that this story teaches. 1) Believe what people tell you about their spiritual experiences. Who are we to judge? As a matter of fact, believing people, period, is usually the best way to go. If they are lying, the truth will eventually come out without you having to train yourself in suspicion, or turn yourself into someone who can’t trust anybody. “Love… always trusts” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
2) Resist the temptation to make assumptions about people. Imagine the assumptions going on around Mary and Joseph. It most likely went on most of their lives.
When Chandler was a newborn, I remember doing Christmas shopping for my wife and taking my daughter, Anne, with me. This was Chandler’s first Christmas, so he was a little over 3 months old, and Anne was 18. Dad, at 52, got more than a few winks and behind the back thumbs-up from male store clerks. I just smiled and let them believe whatever they wanted to believe. Of all the options that could have produced this odd threesome, the truth was probably the farthest from anyone’s mind — that they were both my kids. I try to remember that experience when I’m tempted to jump to conclusions about people.
3) If we live in assumptions all the time, we miss what God is doing, because He usually works outside of the obvious. Don’t assume anything where God is concerned. Stay wide-eyed and filled with wonder. Don’t let the highly touted commercialization of the season ruin Christmas for you. It’s a believer’s celebration, all the way around.
We are praying that God visits each one of you in a special way this Christmas. That He goes beyond assumption to annunciation in your life in some measurable way. It helps to be looking for it.
Many thanks to all those who sent in gifts for women in The New Way of Life homes for the formerly incarcerated. Just remembering the joy their faces was an annunciation of sorts for me. There were miracles everywhere — change you couldn’t explain any way other than God’s intervention in a life.